Applicant : Supreme Court of Georgia;
Respondent : itv.ge;
Violated Principle : principle1; principle5;
Members of Council: Giorgi Mgeladze, Gela Mtivlishvili, Kamila Mamedova, Lika Zakashvili, Irma Zoidze, Giorgi Suladze, Maia Merkviladze, Tamuna Uchidze
Georgian Supreme Court applied to the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics vs. online publishing ITV.ge. Applicant thought, that the article: “Scandal about 3 Million Bribe – What Awaits Eka Beselia and Ivanishvili’s Judge Todua?” published on 22nd of January, 2019, violated Charter principles 1, 3 and 5.
There was no author indicated in the article. Coucil secretariate asked the media company to identify who was responsible for the material, but the information was not given and therefore, nobody was identified. In these situations, according to Charter guidelines, “unidentified person” can be given in the decision.
Specifics of the case: The decision was made by distant voting from Members of Council. According to the Charter’s rules: “Council members can state their opinion about the case/get involved in council’s work by distant communication means [social networks, electronic mail, online video and audio calls]”.
According to the Charter principle 1 – Journalist must respect truth and society’s right to get precise information. There were different factual circumstances in the article, for example:
“The information has already leaked to media that the Omega group founder, Zaza Okuashvili, paid 10% of the sum in question (which is 3 million from 30 million) to win the case”.
“Supreme Court interim head Mzia Todua, who is a trusted person of Ivanishvili and ex lawyer of Kartu, took responsibility to Eka Beselia, that she would decide the case in favor of Zaza Okuashvili and the case will be closed like that”.
“Because Beselia and Ivanishvili’s judge Todua could not solve the problem of Okuashvili, he asked his bribe to be returned”.
“To be more precise: Omega group founder says that he has evidence on how one of the founders of Georgian Dream and the interim head of Supreme Court take bribe.
The circumstances have the signs of a crime, in which a Parliament Member and Supreme Court judge are accused. The information is not verified. At the end of the article it says: “Mrs. Beselia says that there are no evidences or bribes. “I don’t want to believe that Gia Abashidze was told to write this” – says she. Mzia Todua is hiding from media. Zaza Okuashvili is quiet for now, in London”. Council does not think that this phrase stands as verification trial. Council does not believe, that “Mzia Todua is hiding from Media” is true.
Supreme Court shared a statement as soon as the article was published and denied the details, which proves, that they were ready to comment on the information. It is also important to note about the information’s nature and importance. Article accused a Parliament Member and judge of the Supreme Court in corruption. Therefore, journalist should have done everything to verify the information, when there were no open, proven sources. The journalist did not specify which media companies it based the ideas upon, when they said that “there was a leak to media”. Journalist could have asked Supreme Court for information, could have contacted expert Gia Abashidze, whose Facebook status they were using as a source. Therefore, Charter Council thinks that the first principle was violated, as the journalist did not use many ways to verify information.
According to the 3rd principle of the Charter “Journalist must share information which is bases on verified sources. Journalist should not hide facts or falsify information and documents”. The applicant thought that the third principle was violated based on the argumentation of the first principle; therefore, the 3rd principle violation was not proven.
According to the 5th principle of the Charter: Media is obligated to correct the published information which was not correct and lead audience to errors”. After publishing the material, Supreme Court sent the statement to the media denying the information. ITV.ge did not use this information. They neither changed the published article, nor published the statement itself. The article [which violates the first principle] can still be found as it was. Therefore, the 5th principle of the Charter was also violated.
According to information provided above:
ITV.ge unidentified journalist violated 1st and 5th principles of the Charter.
ITV.ge unidentified journalist did not violate 3rd principle of the Charter.